A good way to make sure you meet a goal, say the people who meet their goals, is to make them in public. This way, you're held accountable by others, rather than just letting yourself eat a few cookies and then deciding you're actually going to just lose five pounds instead of the 10 you'd planned. If you tell a bunch of people that you're losing 10 pounds and then try to just lose five, your tough-love-minded friends can remind you about what you promised.
To that end (or, perhaps more likely, just because people share everything on the Internet without any motive) Twitter fills up at the end of December and start of January with people tweeting about their resolutions for the New Year. A series of interactive infographics from eBay Deals is tracking exactly what people are saying they'll be doing better in 2014:
As you can see, people really want to get healthier and stop their bad habits. The site also shows the resolutions spread for the previous year. It's almost identical, so unless people are cutting out a new bad habit every year (and slowly reaching perfection), we can probably guess just how successful many people will be.
You can also drill down more deeply into what people mean by health, finance, and learning, and play with interactive versions at the site. Here's health:
Unsurprisingly, most people are trying to lose weight or improve their bodies in some way, by dieting or running or going to the gym. Financially, people want to improve their careers and their savings:
And people want to read and write more, focus more on school, and generally learn new things:
How did they do it? The creators write:
We gathered random samples of tweets from the week before New Year’s and the week after New Year’s in both 2013 and 2014. Those tweets matched the following search query: #resolutions OR #newyearsresolution OR "new years resolution."
Analyzing the text of the tweets to determine which categories the tweet would fall into proved to be the most challenging part of this research. There are countless variations of common resolutions that were difficult to account for. For instance, someone tweeting about changing their diet may write:
"Stay away from sugary foods"
"Stop eating so much"
"No more dessert"
The site will be updated twice a day, in case there is some surge of resolutions for something unexpected. But mostly, it's an unsurprising list of the things people are generally concerned about: their health and weight, their jobs and money, and their self-improvement and curiosity. Perhaps there is a bit of tyranny implicit in New Year's resolutions? A creeping sense of permanent dissatisfaction? A desire to improve one's self is to be lauded, a sense that everything is never quite good enough, however, is anything but healthy.